Thursday, 31 December 2009
Today's selections come from the punningly titled "In-Kraut" series of compilation CDs, which feature assorted Teutonic tunes from the 1960s and 1970s. There are three volumes and we are featuring one from each, though not necessarily in the right order.
"Marihuana Mantra" - Kuno & The Marihuana Brass
"Beach Bunny" - Frank & The Top Ten
"Black Night" - Hugo Strasser
Personally I think that version of "Black Night" is a considerable improvement on the original.
The Daddy of all German band leaders is of course James Last. Here he is with the gang in 1974 with their stomping version of "Live And Let Die". That's Benny Bendorff on vocals and bass guitar, fact fans.
Bonus clip: Following today's news that Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt have each been awarded an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) for services to advanced chord structures, here is the mighty Quo.
Happy New Year
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Without further ado, here are the awards:
Winner: James McMurtry and Jon Dee Graham at the Luminaire
Runners up: Otis Gibbs at the Sheep Walk; Gurf Morlix at the North Star
Winner: Van Morrison's Astral Weeks in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall
Runners up: Steve Earle at the Barbican; Fairport Convention at the Barbican
One thing that both winners have in common is that both tours (although not the actual gigs I was at) have made it on to CD - as "Live in Europe" and "Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl" respectively. Both are well worth getting hold of if you haven't already, as are all of their other live albums for that matter. Here is a track from "Live in Europe" for you.
"Freeway View (Live 2009)" - James McMurtry
I am too scared of Van to post anything from the Astral Weeks live album here, so instead here are a couple of tracks from an excellent bootleg I have of a concert he did at the Point in Dublin in 1995. I am not sure whether in legal terms posting a bootleg is better or worse than posting an official release - that is one for you moral relativists out there - but it makes me feel safer. The two selections include a lovely version of "Slim Slow Slider" which was, of course, originally on "Astral Weeks".
"Slim Slow Slider (Live 1995)" - Van Morrison
"I'm Not Feeling It Anymore (Live 1995)" - Van Morrison
For those of you who have a thing about women playing ukeleles - you know who you are - here is a Van cover:
Monday, 28 December 2009
To get the honourable mentions out of the way first, in no particular order:
"The Loving Kind" - Nanci Griffith. A long awaited return to form and one I had almost given up on. Her best album for at least 15 years.
"To Be Loved" - Thad Cockrell. First solo album for six years and as good as I had hoped after waiting so long (although points taken off for including four tracks released as an EP last year).
"The King Vs The General" - Penny Penny & General Muzka. The reigning Tsonga monarch teams up with the pretender to the throne to great effect.
"Carbeth" - Trembling Bells. Included mainly to show that while I am irredeemably an old fart I do listen to some modern stuff (just as long as it is modern stuff that sounds like it could have been made in the 1960s or 1970s). Patchy - they were trying a bit too hard to be strange in some places - but the good bits were excellent.Also worth a mention: "Townes" - Steve Earle (especially the acoustic album), "Bible Belt" - Diane Birch, "Balm In Gilead" (Rickie Lee Jones), and a couple of live albums that will crop up again tomorrow.
But my album of the year by a long way is "Blood And Candle Smoke" by Tom Russell. I have seen reviews that describe him as the songwriting equivalent of Cormac McCarthy. In that case this is his equivalent of "The Road" or "All The Pretty Horses". Many of Tom's previous albums have been a bit patchy but there is no filler this time, just twelve great songs. Musically the involvement of Calexico seems to have moved things up a notch as well.
I have been a fan of Tom's for years and go to see him whenever he is in London. If you haven't seen him before I recommend you get yourself up to the Luminaire in Kilburn on 27 January. He always puts on an excellent show and the stories between the songs are almost as good as the songs themselves.
Here is one track from "Blood And Candle Smoke" and one old favourite:
"Mississippi River Runnin' Backwards" - from "Blood And Candle Smoke" (2009)
"William Faulkner In Hollywood" - from "The Road To Bayamon" (1988)
Here is a clip of Tom, sporting a very obvious dye job, performing "East Of Woodstock, West Of Vietnam" from "Blood And Candle Smoke" on Letterman earlier this year:
Bonus clip: On "The Road To Bayamon", Tom included a cover version of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire". It wasn't bad, but I prefer this one:
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Zoot Money's Big Roll Band were a popular live act on the 1960's London scene who performed soul and rhythm 'n blues at the Flamingo, also home to Georgie Fame. Come the Summer of 1967 they decided, along with absolutely everybody else, to tune in and turn on. They mutated into Dantalion's Chariot. As well as Zoot, members included Andy Summers of future Police fame and Pat Donaldson who went on to be a member of Fotheringay and Heads, Hands and Feet and to play as a session musician with any number of big names.
Dantalion's Chariot only issued the one single in their lifetime, but in 1996 a compilation of all known recordings was issued under the title "Chariot Rising" which is well worth tracking down if you can. The A side is relatively well known after being included on "Nuggets" and, as I say, in my own opinion is pretty much the crowning glory of British psychedelia. The B-side is pretty good too. Here they both are:
"Madman Running Through The Fields" - Dantalion's Chariot
"Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud" - Dantalion's Chariot
Needless to say I can't find any Dantalion's Chariot clips so instead here is their old friend from the Flamingo, Mr Georgie Fame:
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
"Christmas In Kakamas" - David Kramer
Although it has Christmas in the title, "Christmas In Kakamas" is about as far from festive fun as you can get for reasons that will become apparent as the song progresses. But I find it extremely affecting.
Kakamas is a small town in the northern Cape Province in South Africa. The song is mainly performed in English but there are a few Afrikaans words chucked in as well. You don't need to understand them to follow the story but in case you are interested:
Dominee = Priest
Braaivleis = barbeque
Ou = bloke
Bakkie = pick-up truck
Meneer = Sir
Veldt = bush, scrubland
We probably all need a bit of cheering up after that. Fortunately David Kramer is just as adept at cheeriness. This one is dedicated to my sister Kate and all the Gogginses in South Africa who I will be missing something terrible over Christmas. In the words of the song, "Ek het jou lief".
"Katie" - David Kramer
Let's end with something more traditional, like this heart-warming story of celebrity audience participation at a panto in Milton Keynes, and this Christmas standard from 25 years ago:
That's it from me for a few days. Have a good one.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
If I did the answer would be easy. The album is Mike Heron's "Smiling Men With Bad Reputations" and the two tracks are "Call Me Diamond" and "Flowers Of The Forest". They are completely different but equally fantastic. The rest of the album doesn't maintain the same standard, but it has several other highlights such as "Feast Of Stephen" and "Beautiful Stranger" and is well worth getting hold of.
As you might expect from an album released in 1971 by a member of the Incredible String Band it is somewhat eclectic. "Call Me Diamond" features the ace South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana. "Flowers Of The Forest" has a guitar solo by Richard Thompson. Subsequent tracks featured John Cale on viola and harmonium, Indian musicians and - on "Warm Heart Pastry" - The Who minus Roger Daltrey under the pseudonym "Tommy & The Bijoux". It should be a mess but somehow it works.
Here is the great one-two:
"Call Me Diamond"
"Flowers Of The Forest"
Mike is still going strong, performing with a line-up of the Incredible String Band, solo, and with his very talented daughter, Georgia Seddon. I have been lucky enough to see him a couple of times this year in various ensemble pieces. His voice is still a bit all over the place but for me that just adds to his considerable charm.
Here is a clip of Mike and the gang way back when with "All Writ Down".
Monday, 21 December 2009
Last week I picked up a cracking CD for a couple of quid at Spitalfields market. It is by Techome Wolde & The Ethio-Stars called "The Ethiopian Soul Revue". A live album recorded in London, it was released in 1996. It is very much in the style of Alemayu Eshete, Mahmoud Ahmed and others you may be familar with from the Ethiopiques series.
According to the sleeve notes, Techome Wolde first came to prominence through his performances at the Addis Ababa City Hall Theatre in the mid-1970s, and released his first cassette in Ethiopia in 1981. "The Ethiopian Soul Revue" was apparently his first CD.
Mr Wolde is backed by the Ethio-Stars, formed in 1981 by trumpeter Shimeles Beyene. They started as a "slick dance band playing in clubs and hotels during the Mengistu regime's dusk to dawn curfews in Addis Ababa", and went on to back many of Ethiopia's most famous singers, including Mahmoud Ahmed.
They make an excellent team. To quote from the sleeve notes again, "the resulting mesh creates a pulsating energy and full-blooded sound that harks back to the golden age of Ethiopian music of the 1970s". Here are a couple of examples:
"Sema Eda Agebachign" (Ever Since We Kissed I'm Addicted To Her Love)
"Aweyo" (Thank You My Girl)
My favourite title on the album is "Yehegerie Lidge Bale Gamie", which translates as "From your hairstyle I know you're from Gojjam". Round here they make similar remarks about girls from Chigwell.
Here is Techome in action. I have no idea if that is the Ethio-Stars backing him.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Mariem is a Sahawari, the indigenous people of the Western Sahara. Like many of her people she has spent much of the last 30 years or so in exile, many of them in refugee camps in Algeria, as part of the long-running dispute over the territory. Previously a Spanish colony, it was invaded by Morocco and Mauritania when the Spanish left in the mid-1970s. Mauritania withdrew after a few years but control is still disputed by Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement.
Mariem has apparently been performing with Sahawari troupes since the 1970s. According to some websites "Deseos" was her first solo album, but others refer to earlier recordings so I am not sure whether that is the case or not. If there are other recordings out there I would like to track them down, so if anyone knows perhaps they could tell us.
Mariem has an absolutely magnificent voice, as you will hear. On these tracks she is backed by electric guitars, tidinets (a form of lute) and tebals (ground-drums traditionally played by women).
"Sbar" - Mariem Hassan
"Tirka" - Mariem Hassan
The obvious comparison is with Tinariwen, both musically and in terms of their history (they were also exiled to Algeria, in their case from Mali). But while I enjoy and admire them, they don't move me in the same way as Mariem Hassan does. Primarily I think it is her voice, but the music is also just that little bit closer to the primitive blues sound with which I am already familiar, and so maybe strikes more of a chord. In particular, when I first listened to "Tirka", it made we think of this:
"First There Was" - Johnny Dowd
Here she is in action:
Saturday, 19 December 2009
"Canto A La Habana"
Here is a 1987 clip of Celia performing the latter song with some help from Tito Puente and friends:
It is a little known fact that salsa was actually invented in the UK and exported to Cuba. Here is an early example. Try to overlook the lead singer's pink suit and unfortunate "Jazz Hitler" hairstyle.
Friday, 18 December 2009
Pete does proper songs, with words and tunes and all that sort of vaguely unfashionable stuff. Some of them sound like they could have been written any time in the last 50 years, which is a compliment as far as I am concerned. He also has a nice line in cover versions, a number of which appear on his current EP "Today, Tomorrow And Forever", recorded in Nashville with the Jordanaires. The EP includes his version of the old Jim Reeves song "Guilty", which was one of the highlights of Wednesday's set. Other highlights included an impromptu Hank Williams medley for his final encore, an Italian number and a couple of his originals - "One Stolen Moment" and "I Don't Like The Man That I Am".
Pete appears to have two voices. The better, cleaner one has hints of Hank, Elvis and the Big O, which has got to be a good thing. The other one is a bit more nasal, and only appears to be used when he also plays the harmonica. Perhaps there is a Dylan default selection for harmonica players, or maybe they all sound nasal because they are out of breath by the time they start singing. Who knows?
Here are a couple of the highlights I have already mentioned:
"Guilty" - from "Today, Tomorrow And The Future" (2009); with the Jordanaires
"I Don't Like The Man That I Am" - from "A Virtual Landslide" (2008)
Here is the video for one of the othe highlights, "One Stolen Moment":
I mentioned Roy Orbison back there. I am indebted to my friend Steve for alerting me to this, er, "tribute" to the Big O:
I know, I'm spoiling you. But you deserve it.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
She finally got some chart action in 1969 with her version of Chip's "Any Way That You Want Me" (which ironically was a cover, the Troggs having done the original). The single was followed by an album with the same title which is wall to wall wonderful. Here are a couple of examples:
"One Fine Summer Morning" - Evie Sands
"I'll Hold Out My Hand" - Evie Sands
No less an authority than Johnny Cash considered her a "pretty little girl full of talent" with silver bells in her voice and "electricity in her fingers the way she plays that guitar left handed and upside down". And if you don't believe me, here he is:
Monday, 14 December 2009
"Play The Music Toronadoes" - The T.S.U. Toronadoes
"Right, Tight And Out Of Sight" - Branding Iron
Also from 1970, here is a remarkably soulful performance from Melanie - almost as remarkable as the hairstyle that suddenly looms up at 1:55. She is backed by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, which probably helps. I nearly wrote the Stephen Hawkings Singers there, which would have been intriguing if rather less soulful.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Turid Lundqvist (who recorded simply as Turid) was part of the Swedish musical movement known as "progg", which from what little I know of it was roughly equivalent to the folk-rock movement underway in the UK at the same time, with a bit of "prog with a single G" chucked in. Turid stylistically is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, but she also sang with the likes of Kebnekasje whose style was much more closely based on traditional Swedish folk. Today's selections come from a compilation CD called "I Retur" which I would thoroughly recommend if you like that sort of thing.
"Valkomme-hus" - Turid
"Stjarnar Och Anglar" - Turid
Here are some more Swedish folkies.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
I recently found in the local Oxfam shop a CD called "Kitsch Hits 3", a title I found hard to resist. It is a compilation of Danish pop hits from the 1970s to the 1990s which - while accepting that the cream of the crop will be on volumes one and two - would appear not to have been a vintage period even by Danish standards. How else could you explain the presence of cover versions of the Hokey Cokey, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and Paul Anka's "You're Having My Baby"? The latter does at least have one advantage over the original - you can't understand the words. Here it is:
"Vi Venter En Baby" - Slik
The second selection is "Uglevisen" by Flemming Werge's Blue Notes. "Uglevisen" appears to mean something like "Owl Ballad".
"Uglevisen" - Flemming Werge's Blue Notes
I tried to find out more information about Flemming but all I could find was a "Where are they know?" feature that Google had translated from Danish to English. It is worth reading in full but, in brief, after a successful career in music he ran a chain of nightclubs and lived in England and Spain before returning to Denmark to resume his career playing "soup-roast-and-ice music".
In the interview Flemming hints at a lack of self-esteem among Danish musicians which might partly explain their lack of success internationally: "Since the time we started to play in Jutland, thought people over here that we were better musicians because we came from Zealand, like the Danes generally believed that English musicians were to fall on your ass over".
Here is a recent clip of Flemming with some of that crazy soup-roast-and-ice music. I defy you not to fall on your ass over this.
And as a special treat, here is Paul Anka with the original of "You're Having My Baby". Odia Coates appears only in spirit form.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Oh, alright, he is a different person. Here are a couple of jolly tunes from their 1983 album, "Stop That Train".
"Shame And Scandal" - Clint Eastwood & General Saint
"H.A.P.P.Y." - Clint Eastwood & General Saint
The two of them considered themselves to be D.J.s (hence the title of their debut album, "Two Bad D.J."). But when this particular style of reggae was started ten to fifteen years or so before by the likes of U Roy, I Roy, Kilroy and Roy of the Rovers it was called toasting and its exponents were called toasters. Here is an example of toasting:
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
We start with Andwella from Northern Ireland. They released their first album as Andwella's Dream in 1969 before shortening it to Andwella for two further albums. This track is from their final album, "People's People" (1971). The vocalist David Lewis went on to write "Happy to be on an Island in the Sun" for Demis Roussos. Never mind.
Also from 1971 is the self-titled solo album from Reg King, formerly the lead singer with the fantastic mod band The Action, who we have featured here before. The album is not quite up to the standards of "Rolled Gold" but it is still pretty good.
Finally we bring you Velvet Opera - formerly Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera but Elmer (real name the slightly less exotic Dave Terry) had left by the time this track came out in 1969.
"She Taught Me To Love" - Andwella
"You Go Have Yourself A Good Time" - Reg King
"Raise The Light" - Velvet Opera
If you thought David Lewis should hang his head in shame for his Roussos connection, others should hang theirs lower still. Like Velvet Opera stalwarts Richard Hudson and John Ford who went on to be responsible for the execrable "Part of the Union" by Strawbs, then somehow managed to lower their standards even further with this:
Monday, 7 December 2009
Having an instinctive aversion to loud posh types we looked for an escape route but found ourselves cornered. And it was just as well we did. This character, Chris, claimed to be a producer of documentary films who was in Jerez to do identify locations for a series he was developing on the history of the horse. The local was his half-English, half-Spanish gofer called Patrick. He insisted on buying us a drink, decided he enjoyed our company and insisted on buying us another one, and so it went on. We ended up decamping to his luxury suite in a posh hotel in the early hours, where we sat on the balcony drinking cava ordered on room service until he finally collapsed.
By this stage of the evening Chris was very confused. He was convinced that I used to play rugby with him in Gloucestershire and kept referring to incidents and individuals from that time. I found it simplest to agree with him – it was his cava we were drinking after all – so when I was asked what old Bodger Huffington was up to now I just said we had lost touch rather than pointing out I had never met Bodger or any of the Huffingtons. Even more bizarrely, he was convinced Lord Roper was a musician called Nick who he used to drink with in Charlotte Street in his television days. He decided Nick was the perfect man to write the incidental music for his horse documentary and was all for drawing up a contract on his laptop there and then until talked out of it by Patrick.
During the course of the evening Chris told some most extraordinary tall tales, including that he had been a tank commander in the Balkans (which prompted him to turn to me and say “What you and I have in common, Goggins, is that we have both had to give orders to kill, something these people will never understand” – I have no idea who he thought I was at that point). But the one that sticks in my mind most is his claim that he used to date one of the Coconuts. He flew her to a Greek island for a romantic weekend and took her out to a taverna. She insisted on going barefoot and, with sad inevitability, ended up getting a badly cut foot during the traditional crockery smashing ceremony. As a result she missed a few tour dates, making Kid Creole very angry indeed. He may even have taken a contract out on Chris. Coati Mundi looks like he could do the job.
In memory of that night, and as a tribute to Chris, Bodger Huffington and all the gang back in Gloucestershire, here are the Coconuts pleading to get into another entertainment venue.
“Darrio” – Kid Creole and the Coconuts (from “Off The Coast Of Me”, 1980)
And here they all are in action (Kid Creole and the Coconuts, that is, not Chris and Bodger):
Sunday, 6 December 2009
"Teba" - Stompie Mavi
"Ezomzi" - Stompie Mavi
I have featured this clip of Stompie before but that was back in the days when the Leggies readership was even more select than it is now so it will be new to most of you, and it is so utterly charming I could watch it over and over again. And frequently do.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
I particularly like the South African jazz that draws on traditional musical styles, and I will be featuring some of that tomorrow. In the meantime here is another example drawing on a different musical tradition. From Cuba, this is Los Van Van with a salsa-fied versaion of "Lullaby of Birdland".
"Timpop Con Birdland" - Los Van Van
Los Van Van took a jazz standard and made it better. It is, however, possible to take a jazz standard and make it even worse.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
"Something About What Happens When We Talk" - Lucinda Williams (from "Sweet Old World", 1992)
"Gringo Honeymoon" - Robert Earl Keen (from "Gringo Honeymoon", 1994)
"The Road It Gives, The Road It Takes Away" - Tom Russell (from "Borderland", 2001)
Gurf has been an integral part of many timeless slices of Americana. But not this one, as far as I know.
P.S. A bit of research reveals that the Dan Somebody or Other I mentioned yesterday was Dan Raza. Check him out.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
First up was Dan Somebody or Other (I didn't catch the surname). He only did two songs which wasn't long enough to leave much of an impression, but they were good enough to make me want to hear a full set some time. The chances of my doing so will obviously be improved if I can work out his name.
Second was the redoubtable Alan Tyler, seen here in action (I was testing out a new camera).
Again this was just a short set but it included favourites like "Middle Saxon Town" and ended with a Jonathan Richman cover. Of course, Alan has been proclaiming his love of Jonathan's music since way back when.
"Jonathan, Jonathan" - The Rockingbirds
Topping the bill, and rightly, was the exotically named Gurf Morlix. The story behind the name - which disappointingly isn't the one he was born with - was explained in an interview with "No Depression". Here is Gurf (still testing).
Like most people, I suspect, I am mainly familiar with Gurf as a sideman and producer, and in that respect his track record is impeccable. He has played on and/or produced many of my favourite albums of the last fifteen years or so, and I will feature some of those in the next post.
Judging by last night he is pretty good as a frontman too. He played a excellent set, which was a well judged mix of some pretty strong originals and some more familiar cover versions (Bob Dylan, The Beatles - you may have heard of them). He also told some entertaining yarns about his time with the late Blaze Foley, who he worked with for a number of years in 1970s and 1980s.
They recorded a lot of material for an album in 1979 and 1980 that came to nothing after Blaze managed to lose the master tapes and then record over the only surviving cassette copy. Gurf thought the recordings had been lost forever until he got a call out of the blue a few years ago from a studio engineer who had found a back-up copy gathering dust somewhere. Gurf tidied them up a bit and they were finally released in 2006.
Here is one from that album, and one from Gurf himself.
"Picture Cards" - Blaze Foley (from "Cold, Cold World", released 2006, recorded 1980)
"How To Be" - Gurf Morlix (from "Fishin' In The Muddy", 2002)
For today's clip, lets go back to the Rockingbirds and the video for the "hit". Doesn't he look young? If it wasn't for the hair I'm not sure I would recognise him.